Nearly twenty years ago, Danny Boyle
and John Hogan adapted Irvine Welsh
’s visceral tale about friendship, drug addiction and death. Most of the actors, including Ewan McGregor
, Jonny Lee Miller
, Robert Carlyle
, Ewen Bremner and Kelly Macdonald
, would continue to experience varying levels of professional success. But for better or worse, these characters would follow them throughout their careers not only because they were memorable, but because their performances were outstanding. Fans were filled with excitement and trepidation when it was announced Boyle was reuniting the original cast for a sequel; particularly when it was revealed T2 Trainspotting
’s runtime would stretch to 20 minutes over the original
, which was deliberately limited to 90 minutes. But it turns out there was absolutely nothing to worry about.
After stealing £16,000 from his mates, Mark Renton (McGregor) spent the last two decades clean and living the good life in Amsterdam. It’s initially unclear why he’s returned to Leith, but his arrival unsurprisingly ruffles some feathers. It appears life after heroin is agreeing with Spud (Bremner), except for a few mishaps stemming from common practices he was unaware existed. Simon, a.k.a. Sick Boy (Miller), has transitioned his habit from heroin to cocaine, which more than irks his sort-of girlfriend Veronika (Anjela Nedyalkova). And Begbie (Carlyle) is serving hard time without parole or appeal, though that’s not going to stop him from saying “hello” to an old friend.
Unsurprisingly, the best thing these four ever did was stay away from each other… and in Begbie’s case, away from the general public. The moment they are breathing the same air, they fall into old habits and dredge up old grudges. In spite of the significant passage of time, the guys are still sore about Mark’s betrayal; always wondering what life could’ve been like if they’d gotten their cut of the sale… or perhaps if they’d been the one to take the money and run — the fact that they probably would’ve wasted it on drugs and other vices is apparently beside the point. Nonetheless, now that Mark is back, however briefly, he tries to make amends. But without a time machine, it’s difficult to ever really repay what he took from his friends.
Although nothing will ever be the same, in some ways very little has changed. Simon is always playing an angle, Begbie is still busting heads, Spud remains the sole proprietor of most disgusting scene in the film and Mark is forever the idea man who enjoys a good rant once in a while. However, it’s those descriptions that make the identity of the group’s scribe so unexpected — particularly because the writing is so good (obviously extracted from Welsh’s works). Scrawled on yellow legal pads, audiences relive moments from the first film via the detailed transcriptions read aloud throughout the sequel.
Each of the actors reprises their roles flawlessly, to the extent that it feels as if they never stopped playing them. It’s easy to fill in the gap and imagine how these characters spent the time between films because they still feel so familiar. Watching the first movie shortly before seeing the second enhances this uncanny feeling that everyone’s gotten older, but nothing has truly changed. Moreover, the satisfaction gained from just hearing Macdonald’s voice before she appears on screen is extraordinary.
Using similar filming and editing styles, Boyle ensures every aspect of this picture is an extension of the first… but possibly better. There’s never any question of the connection between the two films. The characters — and perhaps the filmmakers — are addicted to nostalgia, so the similarities are both a function of the directing and the narrative. However, there’s an unmistakable sense of maturity mixed into all the reminiscing as they each are still trying to find their place in life — only now without heroin — yet longing for the days when nothing else mattered but their next fix (and occasionally each other).
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: Ewan McGregor
, Ewen Bremner
and Jonny Lee Miller